Celebrate Earth Day with NEA National Heritage Fellows!

By Paulette Beete

Today we're revisiting our conversations with four NEA National Heritage Fellows whose work and lives are intimately connected to the natural environment: Elizabeth James-Perry, TahNibaa Naataanii, Kelly Church, and Theresa Secord. As we celebrate Earth Day, may their stories inspire you to find more ways to care for and celebrate our planet.

Headshot of a woman.

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth James-Perry

Wampum & fiber artist and 2023 National Heritage Fellow Elizabeth James-Perry (Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, Aquinnah) is a brilliant artist, marine biologist, and advocate for cultural preservation, Native lifeways, and environmental stewardship. In this podcast, James-Perry talks about the intersection of art and science and explains how these two passions inform her work. LISTEN

A woman poses in front of a weaving loom.

Navajo/Diné textile artist and weaver and 2022 National Heritage Fellow TahNibaa Naataanii talks about her weaving, which is more than an art—it's a way of life. Naataanii raises sheep, shears them, dyes, cards, spins, and, finally, weaves their wool. She also talks about the impact of environmental degradation on the land and the challenges it poses for her and future generations. LISTEN

Headshot oif a woman.

Photo credit: Richard Church, (Ottawa and Pottawatomi)

2018 National Heritage Fellow Kelly Church is a black ash basket maker. An Anishinaabe belonging to the Gun Lake Potawami Band, Kelly combines the centuries-old tradition of tree harvesting and processing ash trees, creating ribbons of ash that she then weaves with her own keen visual sense which result in stunningly original baskets. LISTEN



Headshot of a woman.

Photo by Steve Wewerka

Theresa Secord is an award-winning ash and sweet grass basket maker and one of the people responsible for bringing this ancient art form into the 21st century. A member of the Penobscot tribe which part of the larger Wabanaki confederation, Theresa grew up in Portland, Maine—the first of her generation raised off the reservation.  Although her great-grandmother was renowned for her baskets woven from the bark black ash tree and sweet grass, Theresa didn’t learn to weave until she was an adult. LISTEN

These interviews were originally recorded for the Art Works podcast between 2016-2023.

Did you know you can nominate a folk/traditional artists for an NEA National Heritage Fellowship? Nominations are due May 28, 2024. MORE